I hung on the date yesterday. I kept asking myself over and over, what is it? I remember something significant, but just couldn’t place the date.
Two years ago, June 24, 2017, I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Two years ago today, I began the first novel. It was the day I started to write my life, so I could somehow make sense of how I had gotten to the nuthouse, and where I was going to go from there.
I wrote 110 pages copier paper from the nurses station. They’d hand me over 10 or so sheets at a time. I went through one ink cartridge on my favorite pink Cross pen, which I had begged them to let me keep when they catalogued what I’d come in with. After the pen went dry, I switched to what I could beg off the nurses. I went through several pens as I recall. The nurses were never reluctant to give me what I needed to write. They knew I needed to write.
I hated the classes. Most of the patients were chemical dependency admits, so most of the classes were around the 12 Steps. It just didn’t fit. I missed classes, even though if we missed classes we weren’t allowed to go with the rest of the group to meals. I ate what they brought up for me, always cold. But it was worth it.
I wrote hours at a time, stopping only occasionally to go to the common rooms. It was during that period of time when I refused to watch television, so I refused to go into the large common room. The television was always on. There was a smaller room, but when there weren’t classes, the television was always on in there, too. I complained but to no avail. I asked for just two hours a day with the TV off. Then one hour. To deaf ears. They take all your electronics when you’re admitted, yet the television is allowed to blare in all common areas from wake time to lights out. Television does not ease the mind, it does not promote a soothing quieting effect. There should be no televisions in psych hospitals.
I didn’t sleep on a normal schedule, but that wasn’t new. I hadn’t for months. I would write for hours during the night. The employees did bed checks. Every 15 minutes they’d come in your room and shine a small light, make sure you were breathing. When I slept, I didn’t often wake during the checks, I was most often already awake writing during the checks.
During the days, I slept often. The nurses would come in and tell me classes were about to start, or it was time for meals. Sometimes I got up, and sometimes I didn’t.
On about the fourth day, my psychiatrist said if I didn’t start attending classes he’d discharge me. He said classes were part of the treatment and if I wasn’t complying with treatment I didn’t meet the criteria to be inpatient. After that I tried to attend at least one class a day. I wasn’t ready to be discharged. I at least knew that.
I don’t really know why I hated the classes so much. The 12 Step stuff, although I respect that philosophy a great deal, it didn’t fit. The spiritual meetings were a joke. The leader was completely anti-democrat, comparing them to the rise of the Nazi party. I protested and left the room, registering a complaint immediately. What a dick. I sure hope he’s not still spreading his mind fuck in that place of such vulnerable minds.
There were classes on mindfulness, but that just seemed like common sense to me. Active listening. Being present. Paying attention to what was going on instead of thinking about the next thing you were going to say or do. Just being in the moment. What’s so new and earth shattering about that concept?
Art therapy. That was a fucking joke.
So really, my treatment was the writing. My writing. The writing took on a life of its own. It became my life. It saved me. It got me to discharge. When I got to that 110th page, when my story was down and solid and real and compelling and the foundation was lain for everything that was to come next, I was ready to go home. I was discharged after 11 days.
[Written 6/25/2019, initial publication 7/24/2022]